Editor’s Note: Every Tuesday, Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer take questions from readers about their kids’ education. Have one? Email them at email@example.com.
Dear Abby and Brian,
We have two daughters, one in fourth grade, the other in second. Our fourth grader, whom I’ll refer to as “Em,” loves reading. She stays up late to finish a chapter of whatever series she’s enjoying at the moment, and is always eager to search for the next installment online. Our second grader, “Tess,” is the opposite. She’s at the point now where she can sound out most words, but getting her to do the nightly reading assigned by her teacher is torture, and any time we suggest that she read by herself, she refuses. She’d rather play dress-up. I feel like we did right by her sister but failed her! How do we encourage Tess to be more interested in reading?
Los Angeles, California
The pressure you feel about your daughters’ reading is wholly understandable. Pediatricians and educators are constantly telling parents to prize literary skills. And with good reason: Early reading has been associated with a host of positive outcomes, not only academic, but social and emotional, too. So when kids falter as readers, parents often feel a double frustration: one born of concern for their child, and another stemming from a sense of failure as a parent. But getting Tess more interested in reading will require fighting this kind of thinking, and avoiding telegraphing your concern to her unintentionally. Instead, try to view Tess’s learning to read as an opportunity to delve into her interests in a way you can both enjoy.